News Briefs 07 September 2018

Democratic Republic of Congo

Rebels Ambush South African Peacekeepers in Congo Ebola Zone

Two South African peacekeepers were wounded in a rebel ambush near the epicentre of an Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, their UN mission said on Tuesday.

The attack on Monday on the outskirts of the city of Beni underscored the challenges authorities face in tackling a flare-up of the deadly disease in an active conflict zone stalked by dozens of armed groups.

Health officials say they have made progress slowing the haemorrhagic fever’s spread with experimental vaccines and treatments. But they cannot be sure the situation is under control due to difficulties accessing some areas.

The peacekeepers’ patrol was attacked in the town of Ngadi by militants believed to belong to the Allied Democratic Forces, a Ugandan Islamist group active in eastern Congo, said Florence Marchal, spokeswoman for the UN mission known as MONUSCO.


DR Congo opposition leader Bemba barred from presidential poll

Former Congolese Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba, a top opposition figure who returned to the country after more than a decade, has been barred as a presidential candidate in December’s long-delayed election.

The Constitutional Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) late on Monday backed the electoral commission’s decision that Bemba cannot run because of a pending case at the International Criminal Court.

Bemba became a surprise contender after ICC appeals judges in June acquitted him of war crimes committed by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo forces in the neighbouring Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. He returned to the DRC last month after more than a decade away.

The electoral commission, however, pointed out the pending case in which he was convicted of interfering with witnesses, calling it synonymous with corruption. Congolese law prevents people convicted of corruption from running for the presidency.



World Bank’s Flagship Infrastructure Project Launched in Somalia

The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) and the World Bank launched the flagship infrastructure project in Somalia. The Somali Urban Resilience Project (SURP), worth US$ 9 million, will be the country’s first national test case for municipal infrastructure delivery.

“The World Bank’s role in Somalia is about working with and through government and building the capacity of the authorities to spearhead reform and development,” said Hugh Riddell, World Bank Country Representative for Somalia. “The SURP will allow us to build on the initial work in urban resilience and to expand this agenda across the country.

SURP is a national urban resilience project that aims to pilot the use of country systems at the sub-national level and strengthen municipal governments’ capacity. Initial interventions will begin in Mogadishu and Garowe, and will expand to Kismayo and Baidoa. These cities were chosen as they experience rapid and large influxes of returnees and Internally Displaced Persons.

The Somali Urban Investment Planning Project prepared the ground for this larger-scale, World Bank supported infrastructure project. “SURP signals the importance of supporting urban resilience, and places regional and municipal authorities in the forefront of the urban agenda,” said Eng. Abdirahman Omar Osman (Yariisow), Mayor of Mogadishu. “SURP would also create jobs by financing basic rehabilitation of infrastructure.

Relief Web

With stability in Somalia everybody wins – UN envoy

“Somalia’s enormous potential will not be realised unless there is stability.”

That was the key message of the United Nations envoy to Somalia at a gathering of leaders from the country’s Federal Member States.

Held in the southern port city of Kismayo, the meeting of the Council of Inter-state Cooperation (CIC) brought together the presidents of Puntland, HirShabelle, Galmudug and South West states, as well as Jubaland, of which Kismayo is the capital.

Addressing the gathering, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia encouraged the state leaders to strengthen cooperation between their governments and the federal authorities, noting how doing so can create stable conditions beneficial to all Somalis.

Mr. Keating listed the areas in which action was needed to achieve this goal. They included tangible progress in building security forces that are both capable and trusted, adopting a justice model, clarifying constitutional arrangements and power-sharing arrangements, passing an electoral law, and increasing revenues on the basis of resource- and revenue-sharing agreements.

Relief Web

Central African Republic

Xi meets Central African Republic president

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday met with Central African Republic President Faustin Archange Touadera after the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) concluded on Tuesday.

Xi stressed that China has always supported and actively helped the peace process and development of Central African Republic, and hopes it will achieve new progress in its endeavor towards lasting peace and sustainable development.

China is ready to work with Central African Republic to strengthen political mutual trust, expand practical cooperation, help it improve food security and people’s living standard, and continue to send medical teams to the country, said Xi.

China will continue to stand up and speak for Central African Republic at multilateral organizations, push for more international concern and input in the peace process of the country, as well as more constructive assistance.


Central African Republic militias sign agreement brokered by Russia and Sudan

Russia and Sudan hosted talks between some of the Central African Republic’s rival militias, CAR officials said on Wednesday, August 29, while documents showed the groups had signed a preliminary agreement to “converge towards peace.”

The meetings in the Sudanese capital Khartoum began on Monday, August 27 and unfolded in parallel to another effort to mediate between the armed groups and the government led by the African Union which is ongoing in Bouar in western CAR.

In their declaration of understanding signed on Tuesday, rival ex-Seleka and anti-Balaka armed groups said they had decided to “create a common framework for dialogue and action for a real and lasting peace” in the country.

CAR’s Minister of Communication and Media Ange-Maxime Kazagui in a government statement read on national radio said Russia and Sudan “took the step of holding a meeting in Khartoum with the heads of armed groups.”

The Defense Post


Sudan’s participation in Yemen war part of commitment to Arab issues: FM

Sudan’s Foreign Minister El-Dirdeiry Mohamed Ahmed said his country’s participation in the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen was part of a collective commitment toward Arab issues.

In an interview with the Yemen news agency Saba on Monday, Ahmed said Sudan took part in the military alliance in order to restore security and stability in Yemen.

He underlined Sudan’s support to the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffith, to arrive at a peaceful solution to the crisis through dialogue.

The Sudanese army has been participating in the Saudi-led military coalition since 2015 in a regional effort to back the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.

Last May, President Omar al-Bashir underscored Sudan’s continued participation in the military coalition, three weeks after State Defence Minister Ali Mohamed Salim said his ministry was evaluating pros and cons of the participation in the Yemen war in order to decide on it soon.

Sudan Tribune

Sudanese parliament to endorse elections law in October: NCP

The head of political sector at the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) Abdel-Rahman al-Khidir Wednesday said the 2020 elections law would be endorsed at the parliament in October.

Last June, the Sudanese Council of Ministers approved 2018 elections law amid objection of several political forces participating in the national dialogue.

In press statements on Wednesday, al-Khidir said the law would be endorsed in agreement with all political forces in the parliament, stressing convergence of views with these forces on many of the provisions of the law.

He added the NCP political sector has recommended continued contacts with all political forces without exception, saying the amendment of the constitution and approval of elections law are the public responsibility that requires the participation of all political parties.

Sudan Tribune

South Sudan

Humanitarian convoy reaches insecure areas of S. Sudan

An inter-agency humanitarian convoy has reached Baggari region in South Sudan for the first time since it was cut off in June because of renewed fighting in the area.

The World Food Programme (WFP), lack of security and of safety guarantees for aid workers has left some 28,000 people in Baggari, a region located southwest of Wau town, in dire need of humanitarian assistance in recent months.

A 14-truck convoy, led by WFP, reportedly brought 40 aid workers from 11 different organizations into Baggari region on Wednesday. The teams, some of which are already assisting people, are due to start a count on Friday to determine the number of people in need and their conditions, with food deliveries expected to start over the weekend.

The 11 organizations in the convoy were UN Children Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Organization for Migration, ACTED, Oxfam, Islamic Relief, Community Organization for Emergency and Rehabilitation, Johanniter International, Hold the Child, Islamic Relief and WFP.

“Access to vulnerable people continues to be challenging in South Sudan,” says WFP acting country director, Simon Cammelbeeck.

Sudan Tribune

  1. Sudan military court jails 10 soldiers for rape, murder

South Sudan’s military court on Thursday handed jail sentences to 10 soldiers accused for raping foreign aid workers and murdering a local journalist in the capital, Juba.

The incident in Terrain Hotel, a luxurious facility accommodating foreigners and employees from the United Nations agencies, was attacked by suspected government soldiers loyal to South Sudan President Salva Kiir on 11 July when fighting erupted between rival forces of the South Sudan’s former first vice president, Riek Machar.

12 soldiers were on trial, but while one was freed for lack of evidence charged, another died under unclear circumstances during the trial.

Thursday’s ruling has sentences ranging from seven years to life. The court also ordered the government to pay damages to the victims.

Each of the rape survivors are to be given $4,000 in compensation, the court ordered and that government pays 51 heads of cattle to the slain journalist’s family.

Sudan Tribune



Western Sahara

Moroccan Institutions Have No Right to Speak for Western Sahara People, Says Sidati

Saharawi Deputy Minister for Europe Mohamed Sidati on Sunday warned the institutions under Moroccan law against speaking on behalf of Western Sahara people, as the occupied towns of Al-Ayun and Dakhla are bracing to welcome a European Parliament delegation.

“A European parliament delegation will pay a two-day visit to the occupied territory of Western Sahara, from Monday, for a better understanding of the situation,” Sidati said in a press statement.

“The Polisario Front welcomes the efforts that show the will to gather as much information as possible before taking any decision.”

Sidati said he wanted to recall three essential points.

“The Kingdom of Morocco, a military occupying power, under the 4th Geneva Convention, has no sovereignty over the territory (of Western Sahara)”

The authorizations they think they can give, especially to get access to the territory, are worthless under the international law and the European law,” the Saharawi diplomat said.


Western Sahara Governor Slams Democracy Now! for ‘Human Rights’ Comments

The wali of Western Sahara has slammed the Democracy Now! television program for reporters’ comments on human rights in Western Sahara.

A former member of the Polisario Front, Wali Yahdih Bouchaab, lost his temper and asked American journalists working for Democracy Now! to rather focus on human rights violations in the US.

Democracy Now! posted an hour-long exclusive broadcast on Western Sahara on Youtube on August 31. Twenty minutes into the feature, the crew of journalists recorded video as they headed into the office of the wali in Laayoune. But on arrival, Bouchaab refused to give the interview, asking them to get authorization.

“If you have the authorization, I would be more than glad to provide this interview.”

However, the journalist interviewing the official started asking him questions on human rights in Western Sahara in front of a hidden camera.

“If I am retired, I can even come to your station in the US and to deliver that interview,” he said, emphasizing that he could not give information if the crew did not have authorization.

Morocco World News


eSwatini has no interest in $60bn the Chinese have earmarked for Africa

As more than 40 African heads of state arrived at the China-Africa Cooperation summit Monday, one figure stood out: $60 billion. That’s how much additional funding Chinese President Xi Jinping promised the continent as the two-day summit got underway.

And all of Africa is competing for it – except for one country: eSwatini, an absolute monarchy previously known as Swaziland.


The tiny kingdom was absent from this week’s Africa summit and appears to have no plans of attending anytime soon. It’s the last African nation that still recognizes Taiwan as an independent country, much to the dismay of the Chinese leadership in Beijing that considers Taiwan to be a wayward province.

Swaziland Foreign Minister Mgwagwa Gamedze recently reemphasized the kingdom’s commitment to Taiwan, warning China that Beijing “must not play mind games because our relationship with Taiwan is over 50 years so we will not dump them … We have no desire to change camps since Taiwan has been good to us.”

China has halfheartedly rejected Swaziland’s criticism, with Beijing’s Africa envoy, Xu Jinghu, recently saying that “on this issue, we won’t exert any pressure. We’ll wait for the time to be right … I believe this day will come sooner or later.”


eSwatini celebrates 50 years independence

ESwatini, formerly known as Swaziland, is celebrating 50 years of independence marking half century of sovereignty from colonial rule.

In April 2018, King Mswati III had announced that the country would henceforth be called the ‘Kingdom of ESwatini’. It was a lead up to the Independence Day celebrations.

He wanted to stop the confusion between Swaziland and Switzerland, whose English name is ‘Switzerland’.

ESwatini is distinguished by their rich culture and unique government structure as a diarchy. Ruled jointly by King Mswati III and the Queen Mother Ntfombi Tfwala since 1986, the king is the administrative head of state while the queen is the national head of state with focus on serving as keeper of the ritual fetishes of the nation and presiding during the annual Umhlanga rite.

Africa CGTN


Zimbabwe’s Mugabe says now accepts Mnangagwa as legitimate president

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has said he now accepts President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the country’s legitimate leader after initially accusing him of leading a “disgraceful” de facto coup that ended his near four-decades rule last year.

On the eve of the July 30 vote, Mugabe said he would vote for the opposition to remove Mnangagwa’s “military government”, as the 94-year-old leader expressed bitterness and turned against his one-time allies in the ruling ZANU-PF party.

But at a funeral wake of his mother-in-law, Mugabe said Mnangagwa’s victory, which is still disputed by his main opponent Nelson Chamisa, made him a legitimate president, the privately-owned NewsDay and state-owned The Herald newspapers reported on Friday.



Britain to replace controversial ambassador to Zimbabwe – report

Britain will reportedly replace its “controversial” envoy in Zimbabwe with current World Bank director Melanie Robinson at the beginning of next year.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Robinson will replace long-time ambassador Catriona Laing in Harare after she is redeployed to Nigeria.

Laing was expected to be deployed to the west African country after her departure from Zimbabwe in January 2019.

“Melanie Robinson has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Zimbabwe in succession to Catriona Laing who will be transferred to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Ms Robinson will take up her appointment in January 2019,” reads part of the British government statement.

According to the Daily Mail, Laing was recently accused of “putting lipstick on a crocodile” by “cosying up” to the winner of the southern African country’s election.





Africa in General

France, Benelux to propose EU aid for Africa in return for migrant help

France and the three Benelux countries on Thursday launched a plan to offer EU funds to African countries in return for help stemming the flow of migrants to Europe.

With the issue of immigration fuelling populist movements across Europe, the EU is under pressure to come up with ways to stop the arrival of illegal migrants, many of whom risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean in rickety boats.

French President Emmanuel Macron and the prime ministers of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands said they had agreed on “concrete” proposals to put forward at a meeting of EU leaders in Salzburg, Austria, later this month.


Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia leaders to meet in Asmara

Ethiopian, Eritrean and Somalia leaders are set to meet in Eritrea’s capital Asmara, furthering the diplomatic thaw in the strategic Horn of Africa region.

By bringing together the leaders of former arch-foes in a summit on Wednesday, Eritrea is building newly friendly relations with neighbours Ethiopia and Somalia.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minster Abiy Ahmed arrived at Eritrea’s in Assab port for a two-day working visit in Eritrea, said Eritrea’s Minister of Information, Yemane Gebremeskel. He tweeted that Ethiopia’s leader and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki will hold “extensive discussions” to follow up on an agreement signed by the two countries in July.

He later tweeted that Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed will arrive in Asmara later on Wednesday for a tripartite summit.


Zimbabwean members of parliament to be sworn in

The swearing in of Zimbabwe’s newly-elected members of Parliament (MPs) and senators has been set for Wednesday, the Clerk of Parliament, Kennedy Chokuda, said on Tuesday.

Chokuda, who will preside over the swearing-in, said the 270 legislators were expected to take their oaths of office at the Parliament of Zimbabwe in Harare.

The swearing-in of MPs will set in motion business for the ninth Parliament of Zimbabwe.

“Swearing in of Members of the ninth Parliament will be done in line with section 128 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. It will be done starting with the National Assembly at 10 am and the Senate at 14h30 hours,” Chokuda said.

He said they had also sensitised legislators of what is expected of them and what they should expect in Parliament.

The swearing in of MPs present an opportunity for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to announce the cabinet.


Rescued migrants must not be sent back to Libya: UN

Migrants and asylum-seekers rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe should not be sent back to Libya, where they risk “serious abuses,” the UN’s human rights agency has warned.

In an update to its official position on returns to Libya, the UNHCR warned against any such move, mooted recently by Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini in a standoff with other EU nations on the migrant influx.

“Insecurity and the lack of governance have enabled illicit activities such as corruption as well as people-smuggling and human trafficking to thrive, further fuelling instability in the country,” the agency wrote this month.

Proposals to set up processing centres for asylum applications in Libya and other North African countries, as called for in a deal struck by EU leaders in June, did not change its position, the UN’s refugee body said.